So there you have it, we’re going to win the league!
Well not quite, it’s far too early to contemplate, but what a huge psychological blow was struck yesterday!
Despite the title I’m not referring to the ending of Chelsea’s long, long unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge. The nation should thank us for that as this will not be tiresomely referred to again. Sky patronisingly suggested we should be awarded a trophy for that. No thanks we’ve beaten Chelsea on the way the last two trophies we’ve won. However, what this win does to the morale of the team cannot be underestimated.
This season our results haven’t always the reflected the way we’ve played. We’ve huffed and puffed and struggled showed great resilience and determination to pull ourselves back into games and snatch victory. However, yesterday was the first time this season we’ve really, really looked the part. Organised, tactically astute, tenacious and very cool!
Inevitably as the home side Chelsea would dominate for long periods however, we were organised keep them, particularly the fullbacks, at arms length and presented them with a problem that they simply failed to solve. Many will sniffily look down their noses and berate Benitez for placing the emphasis on defence in this game but hell it was against Chelsea! One only had to see their record at Stamford Bridge to understand the way things turned out. Those who make such ill informed comments do not appreciate the professionalism or discipline we showed yesterday. Football is not just about over head kicks, fancy flicks long, range howitzers or walking the ball into the net after twenty five passes? Chelsea as they are the home side, and because they are a good side, forced us to defend for long periods but when we were able to, our play was bright, adventurous AND attacking – look at the highlights!
The goal wasn’t exactly the greatest in the world Arbeloa’s throw was headed on by Kuyt. Terry’s headed clearance dropped to Alonso whose shot completely threw Cech due to a deflection off Bosingwa. After that we exchanged blows without hurting each other Riera into the side netting when a cross to Gerard was the better option. Gerrard with a long range looper that Cech just tipped over and then Deco. Chelsea finished the half by pressing us right back into our own half however, for all their possession, Reina was largely untroubled.
One expected more of the same in the second half but we came back in admirable style with Kuyt shooting wide on the counter attack, and then a low free kick from Alonso which hit the foot of the post leaving Cech marooned in the centre of his goal. As the game progressed our play became more confident which was exemplified by one wonderful intricate passing movement which cut right through the entire Chelsea side.
Chelsea’s best chance feel to Ashley Cole although he should not have been on the pitch by then after a crude challenge on Babel when he was already on a yellow card. Referee Webb surprisingly choose to ignore the popular young full backs (!) challenge when prior to this he had seemed intent on wafting yellow at every opportunity. Later Babel almost got this revenge with an excellent shot that was no more than a foot wide. Di Santo came on for Chelsea and made a small difference but block after block and tackle after tackle kept them out until finally the big, finely tailored and confidently fashioned red cloak asphyxiated them!
Said Rafa after the game.
“To win here and stay top of the table unbeaten is a massive message for the other teams. With the players showing the character they did, it was a big boost for the rest of the season. We can go to any stadium and win games,”
This has always been the case but thankfully this season we’re actually doing it! Long may it continue.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa (Sinclair 84), Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Mikel, Kalou (Di Santo 58), Deco, Lampard, Malouda (Belletti 58), Anelka. Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Alex.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt (Leiva Lucas 88), Gerrard, Riera (Hyypia 90), Keane (Babel 60). Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Benayoun, Pennant.